Limited Recreational Ocean Salmon Seasons Finalized for 2018

fisherwoman with salmon
A nice Chinook salmon caught outside Bodega Bay
CDFW photo

As expected, ocean salmon anglers will have fewer opportunities this year to wet a line for their favorite fish out of most California ports.

The Pacific Fishery Management Council (PFMC) took action this week to finalize recreational salmon fishing season dates for ocean waters off California for the remainder of the year. In response to the new “overfished” status of Sacramento River fall Chinook, recreational fishing seasons in ocean waters will be cut by 40 percent in some regions, compared to unrestricted seasons.

Substantial cuts were made to ocean salmon fishing opportunity in all management areas, though some areas have longer seasons than others. Sport fisheries between the Oregon/California border and Horse Mountain will only be open from the beginning of June until early September. The longest seasons will be for fisheries from Horse Mountain to Pigeon Point (Fort Bragg and San Francisco areas), however they are limited to mid-June through October. The shortest season, in the area from Pigeon Point to the U.S./Mexico border (Monterey area) is open now, and remains open through early July.

Fishing seasons will be restricted in 2018 to limit harvest of Sacramento River fall Chinook, the main stock supporting California’s ocean fishery. The state’s recent drought combined with poor ocean conditions resulted in three consecutive years of low abundance, pushing the stock into “overfished” status. This year, in an effort to hasten the rebuilding process, the PFMC constructed conservative ocean salmon seasons, anticipating they will produce higher numbers of returning spawners.

“California’s commercial and recreational salmon fishermen and women will face another year of significantly shortened fishing seasons,” said Brett Kormos, a senior environmental scientist with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW), and the California salmon designee on the Council. “The goal is to get even more fish back to the spawning grounds this fall than would be required in a normal year.”

The 2018 recreational ocean salmon season for the California coast is as follows:

  • In the Klamath Management Zone, which is the area between the Oregon/California border and Horse Mountain (40°05’00” N. latitude), the season will open June 1 and continue through September 3.
  • The Fort Bragg and San Francisco areas, which extend from Horse Mountain to Point Arena (38°57’30” N. latitude) and Point Arena to Pigeon Point (37°11’00” N. latitude), respectively, will open June 17 and continue through October 31.
  • The Monterey area between Pigeon Point and the U.S./Mexico border opened on April 7 and will continue through July 2.

The minimum size limit is 20 inches total length in all areas north of Pigeon Point and 24 inches in all areas south of Pigeon Point. The daily bag limit is two Chinook Salmon per day. No more than two daily bag limits may be possessed when on land. On a vessel in ocean waters, no person shall possess or bring ashore more than one daily bag limit. Retention of Coho Salmon (also known as Silver Salmon) is prohibited in all ocean fisheries off California.

The 2018 sport seasons, dates, locations, and bag limits will be published in the 2018-2019 Sport Fishing Regulations Supplement, which will be posted on the CDFW website in May.  Additional season information can be found on CDFW’s ocean salmon web page or by calling CDFW’s ocean salmon hotline at (707) 576-3429.


post by Kandice Morgenstern, CDFW Environmental Scientist